Apr 22, 2019 08:11 AM EDT
For the first time in a million years, the astronauts spotted what was considered as the first molecule that started the universe. It was a Helium hydride (HeH), a combination of helium and hydrogen atoms. The astronauts were able to locate it at a distance of 3,000 light years away from the Earth.
They used an instrument aboard the Stratospheric Observatory for Infrared Astronomy (SOFIA). It is a telescope that was built in a 747 jet converted into a space shuttle. It flies above the opaque parts of the Earth's Atmosphere.
The HeH combination has long been considered the mark of what started the study of elements known today as chemistry. It is part of what cooled down after the big bag that rocked the universe and paves way for life on Earth to flourish. It was believed to have cooled to ions and about 400 K with electron to give form to more neutral atoms. Researchers expressed that in primordial gas, helium in its most natural form reacted with hydrogen ions. Such reactions came to have the first chemical bond joining the molecules that were first formed in the universe.
It was in 1925 when the chemists were able to synthesize HeH in the laboratory after its first discovery. In the 1970s, the scientists back then theorized that the existence of such HeH molecule may be discovered today and it may most likely have formed a new nebula. This is the term used to refer to gas formed from dying stars like that of the sun. And yet, decades of observations did not seem to become fruitful. What it only did was to cast doubt in the truth about this theory.
To find the first ever molecule of the universe, the astrochemists began to seek it using the frequencies of the light that it emits. It was particularly described as a spectral line usually blocked by the Earth's atmosphere. Luckily, a far-infrared spectrometer aboard the SOFIA has allowed them to see the existence of the molecule for the first time. They saw it from a planetary nebula they called NGC 7027. The results of such discovery were published in the journal Nature.
The results of the study show that this unlikely molecule typically involving unreactive helium can possibly be created in space. With this confirmation, it gave scientists more knowledge of the evolution that took place that brought about the Earth to how it is today. The study shows that the astro scientists have depicted the evolution to have taken place 13 billion years of chemistry standing its ground for it.
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